top it all off, the Tigers appeared to pay scant regard to the
observations and recommendations of the SLMM. The monitors were feeling
the effects of what political commentators like Dayan Jayathilake have
termed 'the SLMM's wimp factor' head on.
pressure was nowhere more acute than in Batticaloa. After the Karuna
rebellion, the subsequent Wanni crackdown and the killings following,
Batticaloa became the new killing fields in Sri Lanka. In early July,
when The Sunday Leader spoke to the SLMM Batticaloa Head, Susanne
Ringgaard-Pedersen, she was very candid about the fact that the LTTE's
efforts to regain control of the east were undermining the peace and
stability of the district. Last week however, for the first time in a
long time Pedersen and co., had something to cheer about. Weeks of
prodding and nudging the LTTE to recommence meetings with the army
finally reached fruition last week, when the LTTE agreed to attend a
meeting with army personnel, on Tuesday, September 7 at Vavunathivu.
Eastern Political Wing Head Kaushalyan will lead the Tiger delegation to
the meeting, the first in two months since former Batticaloa political
Padmaseelan alias Lt. Col. Senathiraja died from gunshot injuries
sustained earlier on July 13.
was a besieged SLMM that met in Colombo two weeks ago for a monthly
stock taking effort. Head of Mission, Retired Maj. Gen. Trond Furuhovde
had just finished back to back meetings with the government and the LTTE
before he met the other monitors. While the government had raised the
issue of factional rivalry and the suspected new camps on the southern
side of the Trincomalee bay, the Tigers raised their own set of
grievances during the meetings, led by the murders of their political
operatives in the east. Days before the meeting, Vasu Bawa and Yoga, two
high ranking LTTE political wing cadres in Batticaloa died during an
attack in between Mankerni and Kayankerni just inside government
controlled areas, north of Batticaloa town. The murders saw Tamilselvan
writing to the monitors to lay the blame squarely on the army.
was at the Colombo meeting that Furuhovde and the other district heads
decided that they needed to be more forceful. Furuhovde had observed
that he felt he needed to be more in the field. Hence the decision to
visit troubled Batticaloa. It was in this backdrop that he visited
Batticaloa on August 31 and met with both the LTTE and the army
first meeting was with the army. Two Brigade Commanders, Brigadier Daya
Ranatunge (223 Brigade) and Brigadier Welagama (552 Brigade) represented
the army at the meeting. They had raised the issue of the recent spate
of killings of LTTE rivals and EPDP members in government controlled
areas. On August 30, EPDP member Dayawalan Balasingham was abducted in
two top officers also made representations on the attempted crossing
into government controlled areas by 25 armed LTTE cadres on Sunday. The
incident took place in Valachchenai early in the morning around 5.30
a.m. and the army had to rush in additional units to prevent the
crossover. The Tigers had been quite boisterous during the
is no secret that the LTTE uses the area around Vakeneri to pump cadres
into the east. Army detachments stationed in the area say that to plug
the hole they would probably need a full battalion.
sources said that the SLMM Head had emphasised that his trip was aimed
at bringing the eastern situation under control and that they would make
attempts to prevent the killings.
army appeared a bit frustrated, at what, it was not quite clear,"
sources closely linked with the talks told The Sunday Leader. The army
has drawn a blank when explaining why and how other armed groups operate
in the east outside the army's purview.
run up to the meeting was as usual filled with a list of complaints. The
army has accused the LTTE of building a new bunker just outside
government controlled areas in Vavunathivu. "We can see that from
the GA's office," Army sources said. However, the SLMM office in
Batticaloa had not received any complaints about the bunker by the time
the meeting was concluded around 11 a.m. The army and the LTTE are also
ironically to have their icebreaker meeting on Tuesday at Vavunathivu.
has also been holding recruitment drives all over the east and at one
point had brought in armed cadres to Puthur on August 29 with the aim of
abducting children, according to the army. However, the attempt had
failed. The SLMM had no information on the incident. Army sources say
that most of the cadres on recruitment drives are from the Wanni and
have been inducted to the east recently.
the Karuna defection, the LTTE has been focusing its energies on
replenishing the cadre strength. However, SLMM sources said that they
had not seen any rise or fall in the intensity of the recruitment
was the next meeting that Furuhovde had with the LTTE that broke the
gloom over Batticaloa. He and Pedersen met with the three top LTTE
rankers in the east, military commander Ramesh, political head
Kaushalyan and Commander Ramnan.
LTTE's main grouse was the lack of security for the political wing
cadres operating in government controlled areas. Ramesh said that it was
the biggest of their worries. The latest killings of Bawa and Yoga were
big blows to the Tigers, Ramesh admitted.
SLMM for their part was adamant that killings needed to stop. The LTTE
was told that the population in the east had been living under
apprehension and fear since the intra-LTTE rivalry spilled over to the
streets of Batticaloa and bodies kept piling up.
presence at the meeting was a bonus to the SLMM. The military commander
has been on the high road to authority since the Karuna split. A former
intelligence wing cadre, he operates from the 49 base in Kokkadicholai
and till last week's meeting had held off meeting with the monitors. At
one point SLMM monitors went all the way up to the base, but failed to
meet the elusive Ramnan.
had been anxious to meet Ramnan, because his name has been popping up on
complaints of abductions and forcible recruitment. Before the meeting
got underway Kaushalyan walked up to the monitors and said "I have
someone you have been waiting to meet," and pointed at Ramnan.
After the meeting concluded Ramnan answered with only a smile when
queried whether the monitors could meet him again. He did not take part
in the discussions with the SLMM.
the violence in the recent past and the bad blood between the army and
the LTTE, last week's meetings were a big break. "The situation now
is that at least both sides will talk to each other," sources with
access to the discussions revealed.
it was not an one-off effort on the part of the SLMM that broke the ice.
Neither was it the big-power presence of Furuhovde that clinched the
Tiger approval as suggested by some reports that appeared in Colombo.
has been meeting with the LTTE weekly, mainly with Kaushalyan in an
effort to get the meetings going again. Even when the LTTE closed
offices in Batticaloa and skipped town, the SLMM sought the top rankers
out and kept the dialogue going.
the STF and the LTTE met for the first time in eight months in Amparai
on August 12, monitors told The Sunday Leader that they might be able to
use that meeting as a springboard to turn the tide up north in
Batticaloa. At that time however they were not overtly optimistic.
had informed the SLMM in August after the Amparai meeting that he was
awaiting approval from the Wanni command to restart the meetings. Then
he promised it might be October. The LTTE, according to sources who
dealt with both the monitors and the Tigers has reacted to pressure
brought on them by the diplomatic community to relent the tough stand.
As usual, the Tigers have launched a multi-pronged campaign - while
agreeing to recommence meetings with the army, it last week initiated
yet another effort through the TNA to intensify support for the ISGA.
will lead the LTTE at the talks and is expected to play an increasingly
visible role in the east. Ramesh had made it clear at last week's
meeting that the Tigers wanted to give more importance to the political
wing. "Kaushalyan is a very high ranking member," he told the
and Kaushalyan were airlifted to Kilinochchi on Friday by the air force.
They were expected to consult the LTTE top leadership regarding
Tuesday's meeting with the army.
fact not so long ago Kaushalyan had appeared helpless in the face of
accusations of child recruitment and abductions blamed on the LTTE and
the political wing's seeming inability to rein in the military cadres.
lot will depend on Tuesday's meeting-there is a lot of water to be
crossed and there are no guarantees that it would not end in a flop.
Given the body count in Batticaloa since Vinayagamoorthi Muralitharan's,
split to Colombo and beyond, the army and the LTTE coming face to face
with words to throw at each other is no small miracle.
week's ago it was a very real option that words would have been replaced
of events as per report
week Navy Commander Vice Admiral Daya Sadagiri denied that there
was an attempt made by the LTTE to ram a Navy Fast Attack Craft
with a dingy padded with explosives while naval crafts were
pursuing a suspected trawler smuggling arms on August 16.
of the possible attack were reported in The Sunday Leader of
August 22. Below is the sequence of events as per the official
- Two Naval Fast Attack Craft monitor a wooden trawler, 30 feet in
length, white hull with horizontal stripes, radar equipment on
roof, off Chalai, north of Mullaitivu
- Request by the navy for SLMM monitors
- Fast Attack Carft P-472 departs Trincomalee with two monitors
- Air Force unmanned aerial vehicle circles the trawler and films.
Three Fast Attack Crafts now at the scene. Eight boxes on board
the trawler unloaded using a rope connected to the shore, two
dinghies operating around the trawler, actvity on the shore as
well as on board the trawler.
- P-472 with the monitors on board arrives at the scene
- Navy reports SLMM's reluctance to board the vessel. Trawler
starts to move southwards towards Mullaitivu. The direction that
P-472 approached. P-472 approaches the trawler and takes
- One green dinghy alongside the trawler another nearby.
P-472 gets closer to the wooden trawler. SLMM monitors on shore
trying to reach location of initial unloading
- Dinghy that was alongside the trawler starts a run up southwards
as the trawler turns northward again. The dinghy is piloted by a
single man dressed in black. The dinghy is heading straight at
P-472, sailors on board ordered to take up positions. Decision
made to withdraw P-472.
- Dinghy turns around and rejoins the other dinghy and provides
cover for the trawler
Two more gun boats depart Trincomalee
- The trawler once again sails towards the shore now with both
- Trawler now at approximately three nautical miles north of
Chalai. Turns around again and comes to a stop soon afterwards
close to the shore.
- Trawler is static, activity on board.
- Trawler anchored, crew and dinghy taken to beach later in the
evening, navy left two attack craft in the vicinity of the trawler
including P-472. P-472 returned to Trincomalee later on August 17.
Activity was seen on and around the trawler on the 17th as well.
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